Social Work & The Violence Link

3:15 PM - 4:15 PM
Location: Chelsea Hotel, Churchill Ballroom

Lynda M. Ashbourne, Associate Professor, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph
Ranaja Basu, Doctoral Candidate, Royal Roads University
Sarah Bernadi, Registered Social Worker, Veterinary Emergency Clinic and Referral Center
Dr. Andrea Breen, Associate Professor, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph
Panel Moderator: Erin Whitmore, Executive Director, Ending Violence Association of Canada


This presentation will focus on the intersections of risk and resilience for children, teens and their companion animals. It will also address how education has prepared social workers with the skills to formulate appropriate assessment and intervention strategies based on a client’s goals and needs, the human-animal bond, the importance of considering animals in social work, new academic research, and the importance of raising awareness and the affect that has on the social work field.


  1. The importance of considering animals in social work practice.
  2. Understand the four core areas of Veterinary Social Work practice, research and education.
  3. The relational intersections of resilience in children and family dogs and gain awareness of the possibilities for intervention and long-term violence prevention and initiatives that centre this relationship.

Andrea Breen is an Associate Professor in Family Relations and Human Development at the University of Guelph. Her research and teaching focus on risk, resilience and well-being in the family context. Her work is informed by her applied experiences in violence prevention, positive youth development, and adolescent mental health. Dr. Breen completed her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and Education at OISE/UT. She also holds a Masters degree in Risk and Prevention from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor of Education from McGill University. Dr. Breen is also involved with dog rescue and is currently working towards certification as a canine trainer and behaviour practitioner. She is a member of the International School of Canine Psychology and Behaviour and an Associate Member of the International Companion Animal Network.

Lynda M. Ashbourne is an educator, researcher and psychotherapist. She worked in community development, front-line community mental health and domestic violence programs prior to coming to the University of Guelph in 2008. Her research interests include family safety responses and supporting family relationships across cultural groups and in the face of significant challenges such as migration and family violence, the complex relationships and interactions between family members, and the interface of community service providers and diverse families.

Sarah Bernadi is part of Toronto's Veterinary Emergency Clinic and Referral Centre's (VEC) professional team. As their first Social Worker on staff, she strives to connect her knowledge of the Social Work profession with the specialty services offered at VEC. Sarah is originally from Northern Ontario where she has grown up with a variety of animals, including several rescue dogs. She is passionate about helping all diverse populations facing adversity and is currently volunteering with Link Coalition Toronto, a Not-For-Profit addressing the link between domestic violence, child abuse, animal abuse, and elder abuse in the GTA. Sarah holds her Masters of Social Work Degree, with Distinction in Gerontology from the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto.

Ranaja Basu is a social worker and doctoral candidate at Royal Roads University who has written two books for service providers related to care for elderly people and their families. Throughout her career in social work, she has been involved in social justice - challenging “isms” - and working towards social change. Alongside others she has combated agism in institutions and the community. In services to a First Nations community they battled racism; on the board of a women's shelter they pushed for the rights of women to lead lives free from violence; and with the Integration Action Group they promoted the rights of children and youth with developmental disabilities to live in their communities as valued members. The “ism” to which she now devotes all her skills and energy is speciesism. Ranaja has been an advocate for the liberation of non-human animals for many years and finally came to the realization that this issue is deeply connected to her profession. She decided to pursue studies in the area of animal-human relations to bring awareness of the issue of speciesism and its relation to social work with the hopes of influencing social work research, education and practice.

Erin Whitmore  Coming soon.